I’m not in Kansas, but I’m close enough.

When relocating to a part of the world that you’ve never lived in, there’s always a lot that needs to be done. Moves of that magnitude need to be coordinated. Employment needs to be secured. Housing should be established. School records need to be transferred (if there are children involved). Boxes eventually need to be unpacked.

There’s more than enough to do and not enough time, or hands, to help get everything done.

Suffice it to say, anyone in that type of situation is going to be distracted for quite some time. Appreciating life? Maybe life is in a box that you have to unpack?

A week after I had exploded a lizard with my little piggies, I needed to run some errands. What they were, and where I had to go are inconsequential. As I was walking to the car from the temporary residence where my family and I were residing, I was making a mental note of what needed to be done. It was just about to be noon.

Noon during an Arizona summer is when absolutely every one is inside. Dry Heat or not, the Sun is a crushing ball of hate at that time of the day, during that time of the year, in the desert.

As I put my hand on the door handle of our rental car, I spied, out of the corner of my beady little eye, a Wizard of Oz cosplay happening across the street:

What you’re seeing is a bona fide Dust Devil. I apologize for the vertical display. Regardless of my level of distraction at the time, I did have the presence of mind to tip my phone sideways. Hence the video being full frame. Facebook’s gotta facebook, I guess.

So, what’s a dust devil? 

Dust devil’s are the kid sister of tornadoes. They can be as tall as 650 feet high, and anywhere between 10 to 100 feet in diameter. 

In general, dust devils happen when a part of the ground heats up faster than all of the other ground surrounding that part. As the air rises above this super-heated patch of ground (warm air rises, cool air sinks…) it conflicts with the cooler air around it creating the funnel shape of the dust devil. If a gust of wind picks up, it blows the dust devil along. 

Did I know that it was a dust devil? Fuck no. If I’m being honest, I thought that I was finally having that stroke people keep pushing me towards.

No one but myself was in the parking lot at the time. There were zero people walking on the street. Cars weren’t even slowing down. I was the only person outside to witness something like that.

And it was an amazing mental cleanser that made my errands that much more palatable. Our desert year was shaping up nicely.

 

 

I am the Lizard King: Or, My Sordid History with Reptiles.

Prior to leaving the contiguous United States for the Land of the Rising Sun, my family and I lived in NW Florida. Again, existing in this locale was strictly related to my wife’s line of work. 

Regardless, living in NW Florida was a necessity. And on top of that, it was the first time that my wife and I had ever lived anywhere other than our native Northern Ohio.

Let that sink in for a moment. You make it all of the way into your 30’s before you live anywhere else in your country. Looking back on it now, I’d have to say that that move from the more often than not, ice-laden Ohio to perpetually warm, and mostly wet, Florida was a bigger mind fuck for the wife and I than it ever was for our three children. 

There was quite a bit that I did anticipate: the heat, the immensity of the ocean, the type of weirdness that only Florida can bring. But, for all that I did anticipate, there was quite a bit that I, let alone anyone, would have never seen coming. 

Fact: in NW Florida there was no real flying insect problem. 

And this is why.

As best as I can suss out, this is a Green Anole. He likes changing color based on the heat, living in trees, and climbing all sorts of flat surfaces. He dislikes vertebrates, being confused with chameleons since he’s related to the iguana, and getting caught by predators (He will break off his tail in a desperate grab for freedom. I can verify this fact as my youngest daughter used to catch Anoles like Mr. Miyagi caught flies. More often than not, she’d have only a tail to add to her collection.). 

Yes, this son of a bitch was on the inside of the screen in my house. And yes, I was rather pleased that he kept the bugs for himself. But I was equally displeased that I had a lizard to exorcise from my home.

There I was, City Mouse down to the very fiber of my being. What in the hell am I going to do? I can’t kill it with a shoe. I couldn’t catch the damn thing (not because I was super fat at the time, nor because I was sans pants, but because lizards of that size epitomize skittish). And I sure as shit couldn’t use harsh language at it in the hopes that I would bum it out to the point of it letting itself out. 

I did the only thing that I could think of. I closed the window. 

While this may seem a bit inhumane, it was a nice day, as evidenced by the window being open in the first place. Also, it’s a fucking lizard. 

After I closed the window, and put my pants back on, I decided to go around to the other side of the lizard’s new prison to see if there was anything that could be done about extricating my new “friend”. As luck would have it, the screen opened from both sides. So, I opened the screen and walked away. 

I checked on him an hour later and he was gone, along with the horror thought that came from me wondering how long it would take him to find his way into my house and eat my then-plump face off whilst I slept.

A few days later, I happened upon this scene while taking out the trash. 

I obviously can’t verify that this was the same lizard but it did my heart good to ponder the possibility that the lizard had used his new found freedom to get his freak on. 

This is the closest I have been to Bat Country.

For the last three years, I have been living in Japan. Shortly after I had returned to my home land, I had unwittingly murdered a lizard. Out of the 19 types of lizard that are native to this region, I had happened to get acquainted with the only one that wanted to live in my shoe like a damn elf. 

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I am not one for air travel. I would have liked to have been in my 20’s. What 20-something doesn’t yearn for travel and shenanigans outside their place of origin? I was no exception to that same yearning. Regardless, I missed out on travel due to circumstances that were out of my control. I think that if I did have that opportunity, I would not have seen all air travel for the horror-show that it is. Instead, I probably would have seen it as “just people coming together, man.”

Perhaps it worked out in my favor that travel became a lot hard in the 2000’s?

Regardless, my wife and I had spent the last three years in Japan with our family on a work trip. Eventually, the work ended and we needed to come back to the States for more work. Thanks to my wife’s employers, for the next year we are going to be living in Arizona.

Admittedly, I was a bit nonplussed about living in the desert. It’s the desert.

Sure, it’s a nice change of scenery when you contrast it against Japan. But when you look past the landscape, Arizona is an immigrant state, a state that doesn’t know what it wants to be. The southern portion of that state seems vast and dangerously hot while the top portion is full of forests and temperatures that everyone can live with.

When you consider the population growth over time, you can’t help but see that no one is from here, “originally”. Phoenix is presently the only capital in the US that has breached the 1 million inhabitants. Thanks to this growth, the need for expansion is constant. While this is ok for the economy, what people aren’t aware of is the fact that most building materials retain heat. Because of this expansion and heat retention, the “hot season” has started three weeks earlier and ended three weeks later, as of January 2019. This in turn, has resulted in air conditioners being run on a near constant basis. On top of that, more people are driving (instead of embarking on other modes of transport, because it’s too hot…) which has in turn yielded poorer air quality.

In the end, people keep coming here.

By some miracle, jet lag didn’t catch up with me upon our reentry into our motherland. I still don’t understand how I did it. I slept in the connecting airport after our Japan flight. I also slept on our flight to Arizona. We got to our hotel late and we all slept in the next day. Every day after that, during our first week back, I was perfectly fine. I guess I just got lucky.

A few days later and in spite of my dumb luck with jetlag, my wife had stated that she would like to start going to the gym again. As any good husband knows, a statement like that is encoded. When she says she, she means WE. As in, “we should start going to the gym again”.

I am a good husband. I also don’t mind exercise and I love my wife.

On one such occasion, we had come back to our hotel room from the gym. After we had checked in with the kids and got them sorted, I go to take my shoes off. As I take my left shoe off, I feel something off about the inside of the shoe.

“Probably the liner getting worn out”, I thought. So I stick my hand in there to straighten it out and my stumpy little hand comes back with a fistful of dead lizard.

Yes, I screamed. It was a manly scream, like “GAH! WHAT THE FUCK?”. 

The lizard was in my shoe the entire time that my wife and I were at the gym. It was a cardio heavy day. That is to say, my feet were moving quite a bit that day.  I jogged, I rowed, I used a stair master. The lizard never stood a chance.

Our desert year was off to a great start.

To date, my wife and I are regular gym-goers. On top of that, I check my shoes for squatters regularly. There hasn’t been a lizard in my shoe or seen by my own eyes, since this fateful day.